Newtown Theatre to host film celebrating civil rights

The award-winning film ‘Standing on my Sisters’ Shoulders’ will be presented in Bucks County, followed by a discussion.

By Lindsey Nolen

In celebration of civil rights at a tense time in the nation, Newtown Theatre, located at 120 North State St., will present the film Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders inside its doors on Saturday, April 15.

The film highlights the struggles, fears and oppression of female activists of the 1960s and chronicles their activities during the major events of the civil rights movement. These events include the Emmett Till murder of 1955, the freedom rides of 1961, the Woolworth’s sit-in of 1963, freedom summer of 1964 and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of 1964.

According to Audrey Henry, a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church of Moorestown, New Jersey, which first presented the film at its annual Juneteenth Celebration at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beverly, New Jersey, last June, the showing of the film has been a huge success and was well received by its noticeably diverse audience.

Henry explained that, although these women’s stories are sometimes overshadowed by the more recognizable names of the male activists of the time — Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Andrew Young, Medgar Evers, Stokely Carmichael and John Lewis — the women featured in the film also strongly contributed to the civil rights movement.

“The movie’s trailer promised to demonstrate how the passion, commitment and perseverance of women, both black and white, were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement, and it succeeds in a most powerful way,” Henry said. “The impact of women working at the grassroots level to affect the change they sought is often an untold story.”

After the film’s conclusion, featured speaker Sherry Sadoff Hanck, daughter of Joan and Robert Sadoff, the co-producers and co-editors of the film and book, will give a personal account of her parents’ journey in creating this work.

She recalls a scene within the documentary that her mother was especially moved by — when she saw the depiction a bus being locked from the outside, trapping its inhabitants inside and then set aflame.

“This led [the family] to travel the freedom trail through Southern civil rights sites from Philadelphia to Mississippi, in search of people’s stories about where they were and what it was like to live through these events,” Henry said. “This then led [the Sadoffs] to their first film, Philadelphia, Mississippi, which documents the aftermath and impact on the town where civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were slain.

“Joan Sadoff, Sherry’s mother, returned to gather more stories, as she felt there were still too many untold stories, too much left unsaid, thus leading to the filming of Sisters’.”

After speaking on her own family’s experiences, Sadoff will invite audience members to share their personal stories of events in their lives that were both life-changing and that have left an indelible impression and awareness of the issues of racial disparity and injustice. ••

Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders will be shown at the Newtown Theatre, 120 North State St. in Newtown, on April 15 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. A $15 donation is suggested. For information, call 215.968.3859 or visit thenewtowntheatre.com.

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